Prof Raimund Bleischwitz
Chair in Sustainable Global Resources
Bartlett School Env, Energy & Resources
Faculty of the Built Environment
- Joined UCL
- 1st Aug 2013
Natural resources are high on the agenda. Global competition leads to strategic concerns around superpowers, highly volatile commodity prices and supply vulnerability. At the same time, sustainability concerns are rising and 'climate emergency' is being stated. The use of natural resources comes with environmental pressures, and using key materials such as cement and steel contributes significantly to climate change. Extraction, processing and each phase in a product's life entail substantial harm to the environment. Yet, minerals are also needed for a low carbon economy and implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
I call it the 'triple challenge' of dealing with the economic, the socio-political, and the environmental dimensions of using resources. Quite often however real actors’ strategies focus on one of these dimensions, either predominantly supply oriented (“raw materials strategy”) or demand oriented (“resource efficiency, “sustainable consumption and production”). Interests and aims tend to differ: while manufacturing companies have an interest to cut material purchasing costs and manage volatility, they are reluctant to upscale green product innovations and change their business models. Exporting countries with rich endowments and evidently have other interests compared to countries depending on the imports of commodities. Governing the global resource nexus, – the interactions among using energy, minerals, water, food, and land – is especially challenging. Therefore, research on potential benefits and innovations is as essential as analysing trade-offs, risks and conflicts.
Strategies of a circular economy are needed that cut across the different dimensions and help to develop actor coalitions creating public value.
My research underlines an integrative approach and potential solutions. It aims to show pathways towards maintaining the physical basis of society and socio-economic values in the long term, and develops methods for analysing, evaluating and managing material flows and resources. The vision is a circular economy driven by civil society and inclusive institutions that is embedded in natural material flows with minimal resource use ("Factor 4 to 10") and does not develop at the expense of other regions.
More specifically I’m doing analysis on (a) multi-level governance across markets and policies, and the development of new policies, markets and business models for eco-innovations, especially in the EU, its member states (incl. UK), in China, and in key industries, (b) monitoring and assessing the Global Resource Nexus, i.e. the critical interlinkages between using resources (water-energy-food-land-minerals), the challenges and opportunities the nexus poses on planning and management, and turn it into opportunities towards a circular economy.
I’ve done more than 300 publications, inter alia in Nature, Nature Sustainability, Global Environmental Change, Journal of Cleaner Production, I've been main editor of the Handbook of the Resource Nexus (Routledge 2018), and published the books Waste, Want or War? (Routledge 2014), International Economics of Resource Efficiency. Eco-Innovation Policies for a Green Economy (Springer Publisher 2011), Sustainable Resource Management. Trends, Visions and Policies for Europe and the World (Greenleaf Publisher 2009), Sustainable Growth and Resource Productivity – Economic and Global Policy Issues (Greenleaf Publisher 2009), Corporate Governance of Sustainability: A Co-Evolutionary View on Resource Management (Edward Elgar Publisher 2007), Eco-Efficiency, Regulation, and Sustainable Business. Towards a Governance Structure for Sustainable Development (Edward Elgar Publisher 2004).
Raimund has developed the new MSc on Sustainable Resources (SRes) at UCL ISR now running with 60+ students and high acknowledgements. In 2021 he was nominated for the Student Choice Awards on ‚inspiring teaching‘.
He has been proud supervisor for the first generation of UCL ISR PhD students who now have received their degrees: Priscila Carvalo (now UCL Energy Institute) on principles to govern the water-energy nexus in Brazil and environmental justice, Simon Damkjaer (now University of Southampton) on water stress indicators in Tanzania, Nino D. Jordan (now UCL ISR) on climate politics, information and firms; Ruya Perincek (now OECD) on eco-innovation policies in Australia and Chile; Theo Semertzidis (now UCL ISR) on the water-energy nexus in Brazil; Florian Flachenecker (now European Commission) on material efficiency and competitiveness; Jun Rentschler (now World Bank) on reforming fossil fuel subsidies; and formerly Henning Wilts (now Director at the Wuppertal Institute) on waste management and innovation. He also acted as external examiner in five PhD Viva's at UCL, in Lund, Maastricht, Cambridge, and at the Sorbonne in Paris.
Before joining UCL Raimund had been teaching MSc courses for ten years at the College of Europe, Dept. of European Economic Studies, on "Industry and Sustainability" and "The economics of the EU climate change strategy", which resulted in supervision of some 50 master theses. He was also teaching such MSc courses at the University of Wuppertal, Schumpeter School of Business and Economics, and an MSc course on the economics of material flows at the University of Kassel.
From 2008 until 2010 he was faculty member in the Global Leadership Seminar on Climate Change Policy, Talloires, France, with Tufts University, Singapore University, Seoul University, St. Gallen University, College of Europe.
- Doctorate, Habilitation | 2005
- Bergische Universitat Wuppertal
- Doctorate, Doctor of Philosophy | 1997
- Rheinische Friedrich- Wilhelms- Universitat Bonn
- First Degree, Staatsexamen | 1987
Raimund Bleischwitz is Director of the Bartlett School of Environment, Energy and Resources (BSEER) and Chair in Sustainable Global Resources at the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources.
Raimund is Co-I on two UKRI Circular Economy Centres on metals and construction materials starting January 2021, and he is member of the DEFRA Resources and Waste Targets Expert Group. He has been PI of an international collaboration project on the circular economy and resource efficiency with a special focus on China ('SINCERE'), and involved in projects on eco-innovation (Inno4SD, RECREATE) and on minerals (Minatura, Mica).
Raimund is also Visiting Adjunct Professor at UNU-Flores in Dresden, Germany, Global Fellow at the Smart Prosperity Institute (SPI), Canada, and Affiliate Professor at the Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) in China.
An economist by training, he did his PhD on resource productivity in 1997 and his Habilitation on knowledge-creating institutions in 2005, both pioneering research on those topics; the Habilitation was done in collaboration with the Max Planck Institute on Collective Goods in Bonn.
In his twenty+ years of research he has made contributions on sustainability concepts, national strategies, innovation-inducing policy-mixes, drivers and institutions of transformative changes, and raw material conflicts. He is often invited as a speaker, acknowledged as a thought leader and influential policy adviser and cooperates with a variety of stakeholders. He was member of the European Commission's expert group on circular economy and systemic eco-innovation.
Raimund was Visiting Professor at the College of Europe in Bruges, Belgium, for about ten years. He has gained more international experience via fellowships at the Transatlantic Academy and at AICGS/Johns Hopkins University, both Washington DC, and another one in Japan (JSPS). He was involved in the Millennium Collaborations Projects on climate, energy and eco-efficiency conducted by the Japanese Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) from 2000 – 2005.
Raimund is a builder of institutions. He set up UCL ISR as Deputy Director when joining UCL in 2013. Before, he spent ten years building-up and leading a research group as Co-Director on ‘Material Flows and Resource Management’ at the Wuppertal Institute in Germany. In the Nineties he was supporting Ernst Ulrich von Weizsaecker in establishing the Wuppertal Institute. He was his permanent substitute in a National Committee on the Earth Summit preparations in 1992, and was one of the lead authors of a report entitled „Sustainable Germany“, which stimulated a broad public debate on sustainable development in Germany. In earlier years he had an engagement at the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP); a report he co-authored on international climate policy in 1991 was unanimously adopted in the German Bundestag and shaped the government's position at that time. Raimund had his first professional position in the late eighties as Assistant Advisor to the Socialdemocratic Parliamentary Group in the German Bundestag, Bonn (DE), working on ecological modernisation of the economy, air pollution, transport, and climate change.